It breaks my heart to see children lose out on opportunities
Seyi Oluyole is the executive director of “Nurture My Future”, a non-profit that provides educational opportunity for children and young adults. What strikes you about her is the selfless way she talks about the children and the plans she has for them. In this interview with WOR, Seyi opens up on growing up, her passion for keeping the children in school and the challenges she has had to face.
Growing up was kind of lonely for me. I am the last of 5 children. My immediate older brother is 8 years older than me. As a child I always wished and prayed for a sibling that I could be friends with and play with. I was naughty and trouble had a way of finding me. At 10, my parents sold our flat at Mile-2 estate and we began to move around. My dad still had a car then and sometimes we slept in the car or at churches and camps.
I attended private schools all through, my parents made sure of that but it wasn’t easy. All through my secondary education, I missed at least a whole term of school because of fees. But I was able to sail through. When I was 12, I was fetching water from a well and I was hungry. We were living at my uncle’s and my parents weren’t home. I got really angry at the situation of things and that day at the well, I promised myself I would work hard and change thing
Journey of Nuture my Future
It began when I was 14. We were finally able to have a flat to call our own again at Ebute-Metta. Even though we had lived around for the past months, I had seen nothing like the Ebute Metta environment. Everything there was very different. I met children my age who were not in school and this was weird for me. I was just coming from a community where going to school was as normal as drinking water. I liked dancing so I started to gather the children and started a dance team.
I had about 10 of them then but only four remained stable. As time went on, I realized how much they liked dancing so I decided to use this medium as a way to keep them in school. I told them they had to do well in school if they wanted to stay in the dance group. The dance was an interesting initiative for their community so gradually they began to change and get better in school. At this point, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was just going with the flow. I had one of the four children come live with me and my parents because his environment was very toxic.
He was the first child I ever took in. I was still young at this time so my parents took care of feeding and I was just trying to help him do better in school. When I was 17, I realized how great this initiative was so I decided I was going to take it seriously. I still had the 4 children from earlier but I wanted to take things a step further so I started a summer program where we had free lessons for indigent children and then gave out school materials at the end of the program.
The reception was pretty static until I my boss put up a post about me and what I’m doing on facebook. Before then, people told me how nice what I was doing was and how they hoped to do the same when they became rich and how they couldn’t give me anything. Some people told me NGO was for rich people.
However, I was able to get a couple of people to donate a few times. Now, the reception has gotten a lot better. And I believe it’s just the beginning.
I am definitely not doing as much as I’d like to. I have been restricted to housing only 5 children for fear of getting overwhelmed. Apart from the 8 that I currently sponsor through school, I have children who have been introduced to me by people with hope that I can help them through school but there is only so much I can do. I don’t want to get overwhelmed, take a child in and then not be able to do anything. I’d definitely love to do more.
My main inspiration has always being the children. It breaks my heart to see children lose out on opportunities. I am very pro-choice and I know many of these children will not have a broad scope to choose from when it comes to life choices. I want to give them a chance to choose what they actually want to do with their lives. Two of the four children I first started this initiative with got into the university. One is a graduate now and the other one is still in the university studying Computer Science. Seeing how far their life has come with my little input as a teenager, it makes me believe I can do more. My parents are also an inspiration.
A lot of times I get really scared. I tell my children about having bright futures. I tell them about getting full scholarships through their education. I tell them about the importance of working hard but as I tell them all these, I am thinking of the next place school fees will come from. The next job I can do. And when things get tight, sometimes I just want to run away from them. For fear that all that I have told them might not come to fruition if we can’t pay school fees. Public school is not option for them because a lot of them are behind in reading and can barely comprehend. They need as much attention and good education as possible, so even though they attend a cheap private school, it is better than a public school.
One thing is the awe on people’s face when they find out I am the founder and executive director. So many times, I go out with my kids or visit schools and people ask me to go bring the person who sent me. I still can’t figure if it’s because I am not on the big side because I don’t think I’m small though.
Then meeting parents who don’t care about their child’s welfare. Sometimes even when I offer to help they say they can’t release a child to go to school because she has to take care of the younger one.
One experience for me was meeting a father who shipped his girls all around so he could have them visit relatives and collect money. I had one of his girls; he had gotten a better offer somewhere so he came to take her. it hurts till today because she is a brilliant child with so much potential but there was nothing I could do.
Funds is first because I can’t do this whole thing on my own but most people I spoke to weren’t ready to help. Sometimes I’d have to chase people to remind them of the donation commitment they made. I try social media but I am not an overlord on Twitter.
I left the United States to come home. I tried to work with children over there but it was not working. I felt God leading me back to Nigeria, the children I had left needed me. When I made up my mind to come back, I decided I was going to go back to working with children and I started to plan as much as I could. It was not easy not an easy move. I worked as a cleaner for weeks to get the extra money. I knew I was jumping off a cliff. I didn’t have a rich father I was returning to or a job waiting. I just came back because I felt children needed me. Adjusting in the first few months wasn’t easy. And the backlash I got from family was huge. My brother actually thought I was coming back home because I wanted to marry some guy which I think is hilarious.
Ideas for Future Projects
I hope to create community learning centers where children whom I can’t reach and accommodate can get adequate learning opportunities where learning disabilities are recognized. Teachers in Nigeria don’t know about dyslexia or dysgraphia. I am working on the community learning centre right now.
Also I hope to have an official home for street and vulnerable children.
Advice for Youths With Little Opportunities
The fact that you grew up with little opportunities is not a determinant of your future. Please find your path and work very hard to move up. Read a lot of books, follow the right friends, believe in yourself and your dreams. And those days when you fall, because those days will come, remind yourself where you want to be and get back up. You only need believe it to achieve it. In the words of Venus Williams ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.
I am A Woman of Rubies.I am an agent of change. I am not in love with the idea of change. I am making a change and I have no plan of giving up any time soon.